In reality there's no such thing as a good loss … most of the time moral victories are little more than excuses for inadequacies designed to boost the confidence of those involved, and if you don't win, you don't win … and that, of course, is the objective of the game.
Last night in Edmonton was a game that the Canucks needed to win for a lot of different reasons and when the other guys get two more than you do as the Oilers did in a 5-3 win, it is a loss, but this one feels different to this Blogger.
They had a chance to stay above Calgary in the North West. They had a chance to move ahead of Chicago for 4th in the West. They had a chance to “get their game back” after a very sloppy effort against Anaheim two nights earlier. And maybe even more importantly, they also had a chance to win one for a team mate who is going through a hell right now, which, unless you've been there yourself, is pretty much impossible to fully comprehend.
The Canucks didn't get any points in the standings and now find themselves in 5th place in the Conference with only 4 games left in the regular season, but they were playing their 8th game in 8 different cities over the last 14 days, and they were doing it with a heavy heart for Taylor Pyatt.
Pyatt is on indefinite leave from the team after his Fiancee, his high school sweetheart of 11 years, was tragically killed in a traffic accident in Jamaica, an accident that also left his mother-in-law to be (the wedding was going to take place this summer) in serious condition in hospital. Pyatt is somewhat of a forgotten part of this team by fans unless it is to complain about him, but it is obvious that in the room he is far from that based on the comments over the last two days.
Yesterday the Canucks had their usual 'optional' game-day skate in the morning and every single player was on the ice at Rexall Place, which never happens. The Canucks are trying to cope with the pain they feel for their comrade and being together as a team is the best way to do that … together as a group of one on and off the ice is something that good teams do naturally and the Canucks are as solid a group as you will find in Professional Sports.
They desperately wanted to win this one for Pyatt and his extended families and they weren't shy about saying as much publicly before and after the game. Unfortunately they didn't meet their goal but it certainly wasn't for a lack of effort.
Even the most casual of hockey fan watching this game would tell you that the Oilers were fortunate to win as they were clearly out-played for most of the night and were a little lucky to capitalize on some scoring opportunities.
I'm often ranting about how stats can be misleading and that many experts put way too much emphasis on the numbers when determining how well a player is, or isn't, performing (just look at typical 3-Star selections in most games). The same holds true for the game itself, as all of us have seen wins when the victors played poorly, and conversely, losses that really don't represent what actually happens on the ice.
That's Sports. No matter the league you're watching, it's always a game of mistakes and that's why they make them play them because anything can happen.
Last night the Canucks made more than a few mistakes, from more than a few in their line up that almost always ended up in the back of their net. Credit must be given to the Oilers for taking advantage of the situations presented, but this was a game that was dominated by the visitors and if there was such a thing as time-of-possession in hockey it would have been very lopsided indeed.
The final shots read 46-24, which was a season-high for the Canucks, and if not for Dwayne Roloson's outstanding performance in his 35th consecutive start between the pipes the outcome would have been far more cheerful for Canuck Nation.
After surrendering the game's first goal less than 30 seconds in it didn't take long for the Canucks to take over the game as they showed an urgency in their play throughout, continually pressing the Oilers on almost every shift the rest of the way. The effort was most certainly there, and at the end of the day, that's really all I'm ever looking for.
As mentioned, mistakes were made, and far from everyone was on top of their game, but they tried to battle through it and continued to show a resiliency and stick-to-itiveness that is becoming more and more prevalent as this rollercoaster-of-a-season winds down.
They are showing character by never giving up, no matter what the circumstances, and last night was yet another example of that in my books and why I'm calling this one a “good loss,” even though there really is no such thing.
The Grades …
A … Pyatt
B … Kesler, Burrows, Wellwood, Raymond
C+ … Bieksa, O'Brien, Sundin, Rypien
C … Luongo, Mitchell, Salo, Ohlund, Henrik, Daniel, Demitra, Johnson
C- … Edler, Bernier, Hordichuk
It's right back up on the horse and in the saddle for the Boys tonight as they entertain the Avalanche in yet another very important game.
Well, apparently it's important enough that Roberto Luongo will make his first appearance in back-to-backs since he injured his nether region playing his second game in consecutive nights in Pittsburgh in the middle of November.
Just like they're showing on the ice, their coach isn't sitting on his laurels by resting his best player when his team has already clinched a playoff spot … they are pushing for home ice in the first round and that is the right attitude to take from where I sit.
A loss tonight would be three in a row and two straight at GM Place after their Franchise best 11-game home-ice winning streak came to an end versus the Ducks … this is a game the Canucks need to win before the much anticipated showdown on Tuesday against the Flames, and the betting here is they'll do it with a very strong performance top-to-bottom throughout the roster.
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Written by Mark Gage